Leeds University Great Hall, Leeds LS2 9JS
The University of LeedsYorkshire College of Science, Clothworkers' Court and Great Hall (Alfred Waterhouse, 1877-86)

From the Grammar School the route takes us east down the now pedestrianised University Road to the Clothworkers’ buildings, the heart of the original Yorkshire College of Science (later simply the Yorkshire College), formally opened in 1875, with Heaton as its first Chairman.  The idea for the college came from the Yorkshire Board of Education, in which Heaton was closely involved, and references to it in the journals date back to January 1870.

From the outset, Heaton was given the task of raising funds for the new institution, alongside his near-neighbour, Andrew Fairbairn.  However, by March 1873 Heaton was feeling the size of this task:

‘Lord F[rederick Cavendish] continues to take much interest and will help from time to time and attend a public meeting; but Sir A. Fairbairn now does nothing, & we do not get other influential men in Leeds to aid continuously; so that, at this time, the work of keeping the thing going at all, & avoiding its collapse & the loss of all that has been done & secured, seemed very much to rest on myself, which is a heavy task & responsibility’.

In Fairbairn’s defence it should be said that he was Chair of the Leeds School Board from 1870 and by this time had moved out of Leeds to Goldborough Hall.

However, one of Heaton’s successes was gaining sponsorship from the the Clothworkers’ Company, one of the great livery companies of the City of London.  As a result he was made an honorary member of the Company and attended its annual dinner.  This connection is still benefitting the University and city of Leeds to this day, with the Company having recently made a £1.4m grant towards the upgrade of the Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall.  For further information click here.

Later, Heaton became involved in the controversy over the attempt by Manchester’s Owen’s College to set itself up as a northern university.  It was largely through his efforts that Owen’s College conceded the principle of a federal institution (the Victoria University) in collaboration with the Yorkshire and Liverpool Colleges.  However, Heaton felt that his colleagues on the board (including his son-in-law, Arthur Rücker) mishandled the negotiations, and the Yorkshire College had to wait until 1887, seven years after Heaton’s death, before it could formally join this new institution.  Eventually, the college became the University of Leeds in 1904.

Further Reading:

Beresford, M.W. (2nd edn., 2012), Walks Round Red Brick. Leeds: Thoresby Society and Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

Gosden, P. H. J. H. and Taylor, A. J., eds.(1975), Studies in the History of a University 1874-1974. Leeds: E. J. Arnold & Sons.